Report: 'Ride the Ducks' should resume despite 442 violations found after deadly crash

In this image made from video provided by KOMONEWS.COM, emergency personnel work at the scene of a fatal collision involving a charter bus and a "Ride the Ducks" amphibious tour bus, right, on the Aurora Bridge in Seattle on Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015. (KOMONEWS.COM via AP)

State regulators investigating last September's deadly crash involving a duck boat on the Aurora Bridge revealed Tuesday they had found more than 400 safety violations by Ride the Ducks of Seattle, but recommended that the company be allowed to resume limited operations if it meets certain conditions.

The findings and recommendations were included in a report released Tuesday by the state Utilities and Transportation Commission. Each of the 442 violations found by the commission is subject to a fine of up to $1,000, the report says.

The commission staff recommended a proposed "unsatisfactory" safety rating for Ride the Ducks, based on one acute and six critical violations, as defined by the federal law, as well as, two recordable accidents in 2015.

But if the company can improve its "unsatisfactory" rating to "conditional" within 45 days by meeting a long list of requirements, the staff recommends that 10 of its 18 vehicles be allowed to resume operations.

The commission will hold a hearing on Monday, Dec. 21, in Olympia to determine if the company will be allowed to return to service. Any penalties levied against the company will be addressed at a later date.

The acute and critical regulation violations were related to allowing a driver to operate a commercial vehicle without the proper commercial driver's license and failing to conduct the required number of random controlled-substances tests.

Commission staff found 131 violations of five other critical regulations, but the violations did not establish a pattern, and therefore were not a factor in determining the proposed safety rating.

Staffers also found 304 recordkeeping violations of 17 non-critical regulations. The company must correct these violations in 45 days, per federal regulations, or be placed out of service.

Each of the company's 10 "Truck-Duck" vehicles passed federal Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance inspections.

If approved by the three-member commission, the company would be allowed to put its 10 Truck-Duck vehicles back into service under the following conditions:

The company must improve its safety rating from unsatisfactory to conditional by Jan. 29, by correcting specific violations found by staff in the course of the investigation. If on Jan. 30, the company has not adequately complied, the company will be prohibited from operating.

The company must provide a safety management plan that provides a detailed description of the corrective actions taken to address each violation.

Commission staff must approve the company's safety management plan before the company's safety rating is upgraded to conditional.

The company must undergo follow-up compliance investigations and vehicle inspections in six months, and again in twelve months, to determine if the company is following its safety management plan and to verify compliance with state and federal safety requirements.

After two years, commission staff will conduct a compliance review and issue a safety rating based on the outcome of that investigation.

If Ride the Ducks does not meet those requirements, the company will be put out of service.

The "Stretch-Duck" vehicle-type, which was identified by a 2013 Ride the Ducks International service bulletin that advised of issues with the axle housing, is currently under evaluation by a specialist, hired by the company, who will provide recommendations if any action is needed.

Commission staff recommend the company be required to submit the results of that evaluation to the commission before making a recommendation on whether to return the eight Stretch Duck vehicles to service.

UTC transportation staff opened the investigation into Ride the Ducks after the Sept. 24 Aurora Bridge collision, which resulted in the deaths of five people and injuries to dozens more. The commission also suspended the company's operations pending a full inspection of the company's entire fleet of vehicles and drivers.

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